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Updated: Encina Abandons Plans to Build $1.1 Billion Advanced Recycling Plant

The Houston-based company canceled the project in Township, PA, after the borough council voted unanimously to “strenuously and unequivocally oppose” its construction.

Norbert Sparrow

April 26, 2024

4 Min Read
chemicals in beakers and pellets
Marina Vol/iStock via GETTY IMAGES

Editor's note: We have updated this article with comments from Encina challenging what it considers to be implied correlation.

Following a unanimous vote by the Northumberland Borough Council to oppose the construction of a chemical recycling plant by Encina on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Point Township, PA, Encina Development Group announced yesterday that it would abandon building the facility on that site.

The proposed $1.1 billion plant initially was welcomed by former Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the state legislature, but opposition began to grow over concerns about PFAS, so-called “forever chemicals,” leaching from the floodplain where the facility would have been located into the river, reports the Bay Journal. "In March 2023, Point Township officials denied the company’s request for a variance on height restrictions," writes Ad Crable in the nonprofit media outlet. “Then, on April 2, the borough council of Northumberland, a river town near the site, voted unanimously to ‘strenuously and unequivocally oppose’ the project.”

Resolution did not influence decision to withdraw plans, says Encina.

Encina told PlasticsToday in a written statement following publication of this article that the municipal resolution, local opposition, and rejected request for variance on height restrictions did not, in fact, lead to its decision to withdraw its plans.

Related:Chemical Recycling of Plastics Continues to Gain Ground

The Northumberland Borough Council is a neighboring municipal council next to Point Township, said Encina in its letter. The resolution "had absolutely no bearing on our ability to build in the area," writes Encina's communications lead Alison Jahn. "In fact, this council does not hold any jurisdiction in the area of Point Township. Suggestions that a measure opposing the construction were related to our decision to shift our plans are falsely correlated."

Regarding claims about PFAS potentially leaching from the floodplain, Jahn notes that Encina had no plans to build in any flood-prone areas. The referenced area has no record of flooding, "even with the storms of 2011 and Super Storm Sandy."

Following rejection of the height variance request, Encina promptly reworked its design plans, added Jahn, and this also had no bearing on the decision to abandon the project.

"In a project of this size, we expect varying degrees of support and opposition," Jahn said in the letter addressed to PlasticsToday. "Our choice to focus on other sites was based on a variety of economic and logistical facts which evolved over the detailed engineering period and was not a result of the concerns raised by some in the community. Those concerns, and detailed responses about the ways in which we planned to protect the local community and resources, were addressed extensively in multiple community meetings, individual conversations, as well as posted on our website. We appreciate the strong support we received from many in the community and their disappointment over the outcome."

Encina sets sights on other national and international projects.

Houston-based Encina said in its press release that it will pursue multiple other projects under review or development in the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Southeast Asia.

"Our extensive research shows that these projects offer Encina opportunities to meet the needs of our customers to provide their end products with ISCC+ circular chemicals to help meet their sustainability goals in the coming years at the scale they are expecting,” said CEO Dave Roesser in a prepared statement. “The demand for these products required that our company re-evaluate our engineering design to meet these larger end-product goals for our customers. Ultimately, our facilities must meet these increased demands, therefore, after careful consideration and thorough analysis, Encina’s management team has decided not to proceed with the construction of our circular manufacturing facility in Point Township, Pennsylvania, but will move forward in our other customer markets,” said Roesser.

Encina signs deal with Covestro.

Earlier this year, Encina signed a deal to provide polymers supplier Covestro with chemically recycled benzene and toluene for use in producing polyurethane foams and polycarbonates.

Encina has developed a single-stage catalytic conversion process that breaks down end-of-life plastics otherwise bound for landfills or incineration into their molecular constituents. The resulting “circular” chemicals can be used as building blocks for new plastic products.

While more than 300 advanced recycling, aka chemical recycling, facilities are in the works globally, according to research from nova-Institut, questions remain about the technology’s potential health and environmental risks, as well as its economic viability.

In Pennsylvania, at least, those concerns won the day.

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree.


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